Disney+ Hotstar India’s new head honcho has years of experience in penetrating the Indian market.
Sajith Sivanandan, who will join the leading OTT platform in October, has been with Google for almost 15 years. He is now managing director and business head of Google Pay and Next Billion User Initiatives, Asia Pacific.
During his time with the tech giant, he has focused considerably on emerging markets across Asia, including India. Google Pay was an India-first innovation which debuted as Tez in September 2017. Under Sivanandan, it grew rapidly, with the bulk of its 150 million users worldwide now based in India.
“His deep experience in the region, combined with his strong leadership and business management skills” is a huge asset, Rebecca Campbell, chair of Disney’s International content and operations group, told Variety magazine.
Disney+ Hotstar’s next growth phase
With more than 58 million subscribers, Disney+ Hotstar leads India’s streaming market. However, its growth story has taken a few hits, the biggest one involved losing out on streaming rights for the massive Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament.
Its locally-produced, regional-language slate isn’t as strong as Amazon’s either. Then there is Netflix “leaning in,” reducing prices and producing more content.
“After witnessing rapid growth in recent years, the OTT [streaming] market in India has entered a transformational phase which calls for an ingenious approach to the manner in which we innovate for growth,” K Madhavan, president of Disney Star, told Variety.
“Sajith’s wealth of experience that he has gained over the years makes him the best person to lead Disney+ Hotstar on this journey.”
In some sense, it’s a homecoming for Sivanandan. He started out with Star TV, now a Disney brand, in India in 1996. There he managed the north India market for music channel Channel V.
“The opportunity to come back home to where I started my career and to work alongside a very talented team to serve Disney+ Hotstar users in India and in emerging countries is one that is both a privilege and an honor,” Sivanandan told Variety.